Monday, April 17, 2006

BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad

So last week I watched all 26 episodes of BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad, a Japanese animated series with no giant robots, no planet-shattering punches, and no tentacle sex -- just a simple, often funny, often touching story about rock n' roll dreams.

The main character is an easygoing 14 year-old wastrel, Yukio "Koyuki" Tanaka; when he rescues a weird-looking patchwork dog named Beck from being harassed by some idiot kids, he meets the dog's owner, a genius guitarist named Ryuusuke -- and soon enough, his taste in music expands beyond J-Pop pap and he starts learning to play the guitar as well. This soon leads to the formation of the five-man band named Beck (named after the dog, and apparently not the quirky American musical artist) -- the series is about the band's ups and downs, which weave in and out of Koyuki's personal troubles and joys. There's lots of teen angst of course, and moments of high drama and romance, and naturally, lots of music -- often pretty good, although the stilted English lyrics may mar your enjoyment.

My favorite character in BECK is Saku, Koyuki's stalwart friend, who sort of looks like Jimmy from Beerkada (inasmuch as they both never seem to have eyes). Yvette pointed out that he's the most unpredictable character -- low-key but confrontational, talented but not showy. (Her favorite is Taira, the hot bassist with a penchant for taking his shirt off.)

It's hard to say what makes this series so compelling -- the plotting is solid but not exceptional (a bit slow in parts, a bit rushed in parts), and the characters are appealing but not always fleshed out. I guess it's a lot of things, a lot of little touches. Some stories just have it, I suppose: that indefinable hook, that momentum that carries you along. Part of me even thinks I'm too old to have enjoyed BECK so much, but then again, rock n' roll dreams are forever.

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